It’s a common problem that many people experience – you take off your shoes after a long day and are hit with an overwhelming stench coming from your feet. But why do feet start to smell bad seemingly out of nowhere? Here are some potential reasons your feet have gone from fresh to funky.
Changes in Diet
What you eat can have a big impact on body odor, including foot odor. Foods that contain a lot of sulfur compounds like garlic, onions, and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, etc.) can make their way into your sweat, causing a foul smell. Eating more of these foods than usual may be why your feet are extra stinky lately. Certain medications and supplements can also affect odor.
Hormonal fluctuations related to puberty, menstruation, and menopause can trigger increased foot perspiration and bacteria growth, leading to a more pungent foot odor. Teenagers are especially prone to sweaty, smelly feet as their hormone levels are in flux during puberty. Women may notice their feet smell worse right before or during their periods or during perimenopause.
Hot, Sweaty Feet
Excessive foot sweating provides the ideal moist environment for odor-causing bacteria to multiply and thrive. This could be due to hot weather, wearing shoes and socks that don’t allow airflow, or hyperhidrosis (a condition characterized by excessive sweating). The bacteria feast on the sweat, producing smelly acids and compounds. Wearing breathable shoes and socks can help reduce sweating and odor.
Common fungal infections like athlete’s foot can cause a cheese-like smell in your shoes and feet. The fungi that cause these conditions live on dead skin cells and thrive in warm, damp places like inside shoes and socks. Treating fungal infections with over-the-counter antifungal creams can eliminate the fungus and foot odor.
Dead skin cells and bacteria naturally shed and accumulate on the feet throughout the day. Going barefoot or wearing open-toed shoes allows this buildup to clear away. If you’ve been wearing closed-toed shoes and socks frequently without washing your feet, bacteria and sweat residue builds up, making feet stink. Exfoliating feet daily helps slough off dead cells and bacteria.
Poor Hygiene Habits
Failing to properly wash your feet and change your socks daily can cause a noticeable funk. The bacteria on your skin multiplies rapidly, feeding on dead skin cells and sweat. Make sure to scrub your feet thoroughly when showering, cleaning between the toes. Wear clean, breathable socks that wick moisture and change them every day.
Certain inflammatory skin conditions like eczema can trigger odor-causing bacteria to accumulate rapidly on the feet. Cracked, peeling skin and open sores provide ideal breeding grounds. Using a gentle cleanser instead of soap, moisturizing after bathing, and treating flare-ups can help minimize odors.
New Shoes or Socks
That strong chemical smell coming from new shoes or socks actually means they haven’t been washed properly after production. Traces of manufacturing materials and chemicals get trapped in fabrics and materials and get released as you wear them. Washing new shoes and socks a few times before wearing can help diminish the smell.
Old, Worn Out Shoes
As shoes age and their materials break down with wear, they become less absorbent and provide a perfect environment for bacteria to flourish. Odor builds up over time. Replacing really old, worn out athletic shoes regularly can help prevent exaggerated foot stench. Disinfecting shoe inserts and fabric interiors also cuts down on bacteria.
In rare cases, chronically smelly feet can signal certain medical conditions like diabetes, thyroid disease, and immune deficiencies. These cause excessive sweating, allowing more bacteria to grow. Other issues like poor circulation can also contribute to foot odor. See a doctor if you have persistent foot odor that doesn’t resolve with hygiene changes.
In most cases, stinky feet happen due to lifestyle factors like diet, excessive moisture, and hygiene habits. Tweaking your daily routine, keeping feet clean and dry, wearing appropriate shoes, and replacing old shoes and socks can usually get foot odor under control. But if stench persists despite your best efforts, check with your doctor to rule out any underlying conditions. With some diligent foot care, you can kiss stinky feet goodbye.